My wife and I both have the same sickness. We’re grammar nerds whose eyes and ears physically hurt when we see and hear grammar rules being blatantly ignored. So far, doctors have found no cure, but we do try to self-remedy the sickness by calling out excessive grammar abuse.
And so you can imagine my delight when she wrote this blog for her company, Fishhook, on “Could Care Less” versus “Couldn’t Care Less.” Which one do you use? Which one’s right? Prepare to be schooled.
First things first: please know that I don’t see myself as a grammar expert. I make many mistakes. But growing up in a home where my father was a high school English teacher and my mother was a college speech teacher, proper grammar was drilled into me. In fact, my sisters and I made a game of catching someone in the act of committing subject/verb disagreement. (No wonder we all went on to receive communications degrees!)
I only see myself as qualified to speak on poor grammar because it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me. I’m ultra sensitive to it.
But no matter how it affects you, if you’re a business professional, college graduate and fluent in English (which most of you reading this are), you might sound smarter if you improved your grammar.
We’re not here to judge – just to help improve! Ready to begin?
I’m sure you say it and/or hear it all the time.
“That’s so stupid. I could care less if they dropped that program.”
“I’m so sick of politics. I couldn’t care less what she has to say.”
Which one is right?
Well, if you COULD care less, how much more would you care less? Just a little? A drop? A smidge?
Try this! Say the sentences above slowly, out loud, and think about your words to see if you can hear the difference for yourself.
“I could care less” means you still care a little bit. “I couldn’t care less” means you’re at a zero on the care-o-meter. I believe when most people say, “I could care less,” they actually mean “It’s impossible for me to care less than I do, because I don’t care at all!” But instead, by saying you could care less, you imply you have some caring left.
Some advocates for “I could care less” argue it’s meant to be sarcastic, like “I should be so lucky!” Others argue still that it’s a double negative, which reminds me to cover “double negatives” in a future lesson.
Somewhere along the way, this phrase got misused and “could care less” became acceptable for “couldn’t care less.” Next time you want to express how you just don’t care, you might sound smarter if you said “I couldn’t care less.”